Not Contributing to Consumer Society
Interview with Anne Clark
In 1982 the EP „The Sitting Room“ had been released, Anne Clarks first appereance. The record didn’t fit that good to normal pop music: gloomy lyrics, filled with despair were combined with abstract sound sculptures. Only two years later the British Singer was head of the indepent music scene. With her hits „Sleeper in Metropolis“ and „Our Darkness“ she smashed the alternative dance floors by the way influencing numberless Techno musicians, as impressively shown on „Wordprocessing“, the 1997 remix-album.
Bugged by the growing peer pressure and disappointed by the music industry’s greed – most of her commercial successes have not paid for Anne Clark – the artists moves to Norway. Her music gets a bit more quite, but not more lighthearted. In 1994 Anne Clark tours with a fully accoustic band: a real adventure, but nevertheless, her fans are enthusiastic and she gains a new audience. Even after 25 years the pop poet still touches her listeners. We had the opportunity to talk to her.
debil: You’re just on a tour. Following the rules of the music business, there must be a new album coming out very soon. Am I right?
Anne Clark: I’m on tour in November and December, finishing just before Christmas: Austria, Germany, Switzerland, France, Holland, Belgium. I’ve also been working on a new album. It’s been a long time since I released a new studio album but I don’t feel the need to rush it. There is so much stuff out there, to me of seemingly little lasting value; cds, books, movies, TV, gadgets, stuff! Stuff! Stuff! Stop!!!! l am very reluctant to add to this insatiable consumer culture. When the time and the material is right and ready it will come out!
debil: What can we expect on this tour? Who’s with you on tour?
AC: There will be just Niko (Lai) and Murat (Parlak), Jann (Michael Engel) und Jeff (Aug) who I think many people know with the acoustic instruments. And I also work with Rainer von Vielen who’ll be on stage and doing some support at some of the shows. I don’t know if anybody is familiar with him, but he’s amazing. He’s my favourite performer at the moment. His energy is just unbelievable and I highly recommand people, to come and see. I just don’t want to recommand Anne Clark, I just want to recommand Rainer von Vielen. Because it’s truely amazing what he does. And for a few of the shows I’m working with Manuel Richter who’s also known from Xabec. He is from Leipzig and it’s a total other extreme of electronic music. And for me, he’s the most incredible, most creative. He’s like a painter, like a sculptor with electronic sounds and ideas. And again I really recommand people come just to see with us. So they’ll be travelling with us well. The bus should be quite interesting.
debil: Is it still an acoustic album or do you go a bit more „back to the roots“?
AC: No, it will be – due to the influences of Rainer and Manuel – a project blending electronics and acoustic elements, which can be a lot of fun, but it can be quite complicated too. It’s one of my favourite things – putting people together, that really shouldn’t perhaps be together and to watch them work together.
debil: Do you think it’s released some time next year?
AC: Hopefully, depending on what a record company is prepared to do with it!
debil: Will you release it on Alpha Matrix?
AC: No! It needs to released, as I think on a bigger label, because… The music industry has changed so much and the way of listening to music has changed so much.
debil: You’ve got the same problems like at the start of your career?
AC: I’ve got an ongoing problem with the business that has never really understood what I do. They work with „product“. Product has a shelf life. I don’t really want to be a part of that. When I listen to music it is because it touches my soul in some way. That lasts longer than 5 minutes! – Yes – I love mindless pop too…but there is so much more!
I’m wondering where the value of everything has gone, if that makes sense…There are so many people doing so many strange and amazing things yet despite all of this overload and over consumption it isn’t always easy to find. The internet is obviously the most exciting place to discover/purchase music….so maybe I’ll just release my next album via the internet.
debil: I think, it’s a main problem of artists today, I mean not to contribute to consumer lifestyle, to do something that is worth something…
AC: That’s really what it’s about. I don’t want to be a part of that.
debil: On the other hand you have to do some release or something in public just for being still an artist…
AC: Yes, and I guess that’s the question to me, if I still want to do that. I really don’t understand what the value of art is anymore … I wonder where it fits anymore in people’s life or in my life.
debil: What claims do you have in art?
AC: I think in this time in 2006 it has to something that can sustain itself. That has a deep and powerful life. It’s increadible looking back of what has survived of hundreds and hundreds of years. Of course there was always music and painting and theater. There are things that really sustained that people still get enormous pleasure from today. You know we can name a hundredthousand artists that still remain relevant… Today the purpose of art is an immediate, spontaneous, quick, pop impact and then the next thing comes. It should mean much more than that.
debil: What do you think, how we could solve this problem?
AC: Oh, I don’t have any answers. I just try to stop myself being drowned. Everytime I go into a music store or a book store or even a food store. It’s wonderful, all that choice and all that freedom all the expression and all this fantastique democracy of ideas, but I don’t know what purpose it’s serving really. It’s great to write a song on the computer or publish a book or have an exhibition or digital photographs – it’s great, but it’s too much for me. Too much of everything. I am looking to go the other way…less…slower…deeper.
debil: You did a lot of collaborations in the last time, for instance with Implant. What’s that special in doing collaborations?
AC: I have always collaborated with different musicians all through the years. The problem for me is that i’m not a really good musician. Since I was in school I was trying to play – you can start from a to z – I tryed to play every instrument that fits in the alphabet. I don’t know why, I’m too impatient really and too explosive to sit and have the discipline of practicing, practicing, practicing… I won’t continue in making everyone suffer by my playing the keyboards and by my playing the guitar or violin or whatever, so I began bringing a kind of contrary musicians together, contradictory people that perhaps wouldn’t really work together in a usual situation and by doing this try to create something new out of all this seperate ideas. And that has always been the situation, right back to „The Sitting Room“ or „Changing Places“. I mean you have two very different musicians, David Harrow and Viny Reilly, but it has drawn one complete picture, if that make sense.
debil: You see yourself more in a catalyst function?
AC: Yes, absoloutely. I have been such a big fan of Brian Eno for example. Which again is somebody who says that he’s not a musician but he puts music togehter and puts things together. And it’s a very interesting way of working I think. I don’t know if it is for the musicians, sometimes I think they want to pull their hair out, but in the end there is hopefully a good result, that comes from it.
debil: If you create a new song – do you start with lyrics or is there first a musical idea?
AC: It can depend. Often I have some lyrics and I turn on that musical ideas and I give it to a particular musician that I think could develope that or they’ll come to a musical idea or we do something together in a room.
debil: If always seen you as a more introverted person but I read you like touring. How does this fit together?
AC: I do like touring. I did like touring. (Perhaps I’m getting too old for touring!!) I get a bit more tired touring now. It’s the final part of the puzzle. You have all these different elements. You have the writing, the musicians, the vocal and then you have the audience and the venue. And it really completes the whole picture. Hopefully it works. Usually it does – sometimes it doesn’t. That is the magic of live work. Everybody is involved in the here and now. We all share and contribute, musicians and audience together!
debil: Are you a completely different person on stage or is it another aspect of your person?
AC: I think that’s really me on stage. It’s the real me, if that makes sense.
debil: I just took a look at the „R.S.V.P“. booklet and you were greeting your fans in West and East Germany as well. Did you have contact with East German people before the wall came down?
AC: Very little. There was some and I knew of it… But it was amazing after everything collapsed. It was like a tidal wave of communication with people… It was absolutely incredible, absolutely amazing. And I really enjoy to play in the Eastern part of German. It’s still incredible. And there is a difference in the people. They seem a little bit more reserved but very passionate, very intense in their feelings and expression… I love to play in East Germany…
debil: You had a gig in Leipzig in 2004 on the Wave Gotik Treffen. Together with David Harrow you played more the old style songs. What feeling did you have there on stage?
AC: I didn’t really enjoy it. I had been under pressure for years from promoters in different places: „Why don’t you play with David Harrow again? We want you to do to play with him!“ David and I we did some fantastic things togther in the 1980ies. When we worked together then, it was really great. And I think my most successfull material commercially was made with David. But the thing is, we stopped working together, bercause we realized that was it. We had done really everything we could do together. And we ‚re very very different people… I still love him very much and like him very much – but OK, let’s try. We haven’t seen each other for I think fifteen years, which is a long time… And we just tried it and I don’t think personally that it worked very well. It’s a kind of proof for me and hopefully for the people that have been asking us to play together that we have really have done together everything we can.
debil: So you don’t even continue in this way?
AC: Maybe one day we may get together and this spark happens again between us like it did back in the 1980ies then sure, there is no reason to say „I would never ever do it again“, but at the moment it doesn’t really make any sense for either of us, because we both doing very differnt things.
debil: There are a lot of people who have done remixes of your songs. Did you get a new audience from this?
AC: Where my new audience comes from, it’s amazing. I’m absolutely amazed every year. Doing concerts and tours I see familiar faces and people that I’ve known over many years and still I see there people aged 18, 19, 20… I don’t really know where they come from, but I’m very glad they come from somewhere. Maybe the re-mixes have something to do with it!
debil: Maybe they expect something different…
They just get what they get (laughs). If they don’t like it they don’t have to come back.
debil: In my opion, the contence of your songs has changed from a more political to a more personal view on things. Is this right or would you say it’s not?
AC: Yes, in some ways. It’s a big thing I’m struggeling with at the moment. If people really know the content of the texts over the years I can understand. And I think I see that I’ve been very … I should choose my words carefully here … very ‚angry‘ and ‚troubled‘ by things in the world. I’ve found a way just to accept the way things are in the world. But I’m one individual. As you get older I think, it really begins to have an effect on you because you realise your limitations, of what you can do about change. If I had the courage I would go and shoot Georg W. Bush and Tony Blair for example, but I don’t really think this possibility ’s gonna arrive for me.
debil: This wouldn’t solve any problem, I think.
AC: It may cause a few problems for me (laughs). There are terrible, terrible things going on in the world. And non of us can do anything about this and it troubles me. I find it very upsetting. So there comes a point where you have to change your life. I think it’s a whole periode of transition I’m going through inside of me. I’m thinking: Is there actually anything worht saying, is there anything to talk about, what difference does it make to talk about this things. Perhaps I should go now to work in my garden…
debil: Is there a note of despairation in it, how you see world now?
AC: It always has been like that. It’s made me desperately angry, desperately upset, desperately frustrated. And it’s only so long to live your life desperately, (laughs) you know, without exploding.I’m trying to find a way to life, I guess, basically, without getting myself in trouble. I’m be to live heathy in a good way. And all I can do, all any of us can do, is be good to and create good in our environment around us, in our world. And in fact, the next album, I have called or it will be called eventually „The Smallest Acts Of Kindness“, because they’re the biggest things we can do.
debil: Once you made a break in your life, you moved to Norway. I read that you learnt a completely different lifestyle. Can you please explain this?
AC: Before that I lived in urban London all my life, where it’s just constant stress and aggression and speed and you didn’t know if it’s summer or winter or what was going on. It’s just this constant movement and a very stressfull way of living. And I can’t really live like this, because I’m very interested in environmental and ecological things and just the way we are bound to the rest of the earth, of the world.
About moving to Norway: They live in a different way there. It’s such a huge country with an tiny, tiny population and it’s a very extreme climate there too. You have very very cold dark winters or wonderful hot light summers in which the people really have to live with the nature. So it really tought me to live in a different way. It had a huge effect on my life and things that concern me. For example: I watched the television news last night and there’s all this stuff going on, politicians all looking like each each other, talking rubbish like each other. It bored me till the last part of the news. There was a report from Indonesea. I not exactly know which Island it was, but where they’ve been drilling for some minerals there and they have exploited this area of toxic mud. That it’s drowning the whole population. And you could go on for hundreds of years, it’s so huge and so devastating and it took only two minutes in the news and then it’s time for the weather and the rest of the crap on TV… What do you do in a world like that? How do you value anything? What do you do? What could this making an album and singing a few songs… you know?
debil: You’re right. But would you say, that you’re still interested in politics? Are you engaged in some projects, I read something about an environmental project…
AC: Yes. I can on my tiny level, I’m not a scientist and I’m not a doctor. But on a small scale I’m involved in two or three local organisations… Yes, it’s all I can do. (Unless I blast Bush and Blair 😉
debil: Going back to music: You always had much more success in continental Europe than at home. It’s some kind of ‚prophet in the own country‘-situation. Did anything change over the last time or is it always like that?
AC: Well I had my first English show for a long time yesterday. A celebration of poetry and I did something here. But it’s slightly different from the way I do things in Germany or Greece or Spain or somewhere. It’s a bit strange for me. I guess it must cause deep turmoil somewhere to be this stranger in my own land, but there is nothing I can do about it.
debil: Did you never ask yourself, why it’s that way or did you find an answer?
AC: I asked, but again, what possible solutions I could find? It’s like being a person from another planet in my own country all the time… What you do about that? I don’t know. It makes you a bit rootless. It makes you without any sense of belonging, really.
debil: But what about your success in America? Once you told me a strange story about this Hip Hop Guy, I think it was in L.A. …
AC: No, in Chicago! It’s a long time ago, when I first time went to America. We were in Chicago and I was wandering around and the soundcheck was happening. Coming back at the venue entrance I see this big gang of black guys there and of course with my white European prejudices I thought: Oh, I’m gonna be in trouble. That’s it, I’m gonna be in a big trouble. I nervousely started to pass this guys and stood all up and came towards me. It was just like: „Oh sister Anne.“ All this big rap guys who’d been following my work for years and it was absolutely amazing to talk to them and to understand, that my strange Northern European poetry had reached across to this totally crazy Hip Hop audience in Chicago. It was amazing. I didn’t really expected that at all.
debil: So you can’t say that you and your work has no impact…
AC: No, I found that overwhelming. I mean, sometimes people think I’m rude, but I’m a very introverted and shy person. And you cannot imagine how bizarre it is for me to have people, not just people that speak my language, but people from different countries, different cultures, different everything just come to me and say how much, what I’ve done is having effect on them. I find that so difficult to do that. I just want to disappear to the ground… I don’t understand it and I don’t know why really… It’s a weird feeling to have…
debil: Maybe it’s the best payback you can get as an arstist…
AC: Yes, I think so. I guess somewhere in there there is something very ballanced, because if come here to England I hear: „What’s this weird shit that you do?“… It’s like ‚Oh… OK, maybe I should just slip across the water’… but I’m not part of any culture in Chicago or Athens or Berlin or some of this places either. I don’t belong to this places either. Maybe I should get myself a gipsy caravan and live in that!
debil: Do you have any vision where you’ll be in ten years?
AC: My ideal vision would be living in my amazing country commune or community, with lots of people sharing some space and doing lots of positive, creative things, but I think this only happens in my dreams. So I’m not really to sure.
debil: Is it a dream of a Hippie commune?
AC: (Laughs) Please don’t use the H-word! Not a Hippie! I mean this would be something very active. A working and living environment with people working together. I don’t know if there is so much in Germany… You see so many people struggeling to find a place to live, to keep their job, to work, to pay their bills. We all do it in a very insular way, in a very individual way. It’s of course how it should be to some degree but if you see how people struggle all the time to get by, so you think: Maybe we could try… It’s been tried, especially in the recent past in East Germanyfor e.g. It’s been tried in a very political way but I’m talking of small groups only. Like the Amish in America!
debil: It’s also a question of combining energies, isn’t it?
AC: Exactely. There was a research thing some people did here and I think they did it in Germany, just showing for example how much ressources can be saved, if people work and live together. If I say live togeter I don’t mean a big Hippie commune where everybody is just crammed in and smoking dope all day, I don’t mean that! I mean the good old Amish style, in a very idealistic way. It’s a kind of community they seem to work in there very strange way…
debil: But it doesn’t save you from the bad world as we have experienced …
AC: No, unfortunately not. And if there’s any group of Americans really that least deserved that, because they try to live in a very pure way with their naivety and innocence.
debil: You called yourself a different time naive, especially in your realationship with music business. So you can understand them; do you like being naive in that way.
AC: It’s a weird word ’naive`, because it can be very negative and positive as well… I wonder sometimes if I’m rather stupid than naive…!!!! There is a purity in something, in some people, still in this crazy, crazy, crazy world. There are still elements that try to live in a pure way, wheter you do agrre with what they do or not. I wouldn’t mind staying in an Amish place for a while.
debil: Over the time you used a lot of literary influences. Do you read a lot? How can we imagine this – you’re one of this persons reading all the time?
AC: I would love to read all the time!!. Obviousely there’s other things that have to bedone!. I’m just trying to find what I’m reading now, I’ve got here beside me an interesting book. I’m doing a song about organised religion for the new album and for the tour. This is an encyclopedia of every kind of strange believe and amusing deceptions and dangerous delucions that has ever been. So it’s a good source of getting information about all this crazy stuff that seems to be going on all around us and increasingly here in Britain…
debil: But you are not religious in that way…
AC: I’m certainly not religious in that sense of political organised religion, absolutely not! And I don’t think it should be tolerated.
debil: Would you call yourself spiritual?
AC: Spirituality and religion are two totally seperate things. I just finished reading an essay by Salman Rushdie, you know he had this death issue against him some time ago, and he sayd: Religion like all internal personal things should be practiced in the privacy of one’s own home and internally in one’s life. This why it’s here, enormousely here and I think it must be the same in Germany. It has got on a political stage with Bush and his whole crusade against Islam. But than equally you have that Islamic uprising… Well people saying, that they gonna turn England into Islamabad, they want Sharia laws here. How we can just listen to this madness of religion in this day and age?
debil: Actually I think the big religious community are working together… Maybe you heard about the pope, what he was saying about Islam?
AC: Yes, of cause. There is a war between extreme Christians and extreme Muslims. And you’ve got the Jews in there as well in some way and then we will have somebody else turning up. I just cannot believe that we have not learnt from the conflict and the tragedy of religion in politics… I thought we had come far enough as a species to stop this. Everybody is entitled to live their religion but religion should be about peace and ethics and morals and love, but I’m coming into the Hippie again.
Often religious people, religious fanatics on every side, Christian, Jewish, Muslime, whatever, they attend no rational life, there is no way of rationalising. So it just takes only one idiot on one side to say something and one idiot on the other to say something and he’s got over the other people just get along with their lifes, you have this people stirring up all this trouble…
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